Content Note: The information here may trigger unpleasant feelings or thoughts of past abuse. Please contact the 24 Hour Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419 if you require support.
September 30, 2021 marks the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This date has long been marked as Orange Shirt day. It grew out of Phyllis (Jack) Webstad’s story of having her shiny new orange shirt taken away on her first day of school at St. Joseph Mission Residential School. The date for Orange Shirt Day was chosen because it is the time of year in which Indigenous children were taken from their homes to residential schools.
While the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report shared the stories and experiences of abuse of Indigenous youth in Canada’s residential schools, many non-Indigenous peoples, including some members of our provincial and federal governments, continued to deny the harm done or the intent of these schools. These schools were created for the purpose of genocide. With the uncovering of many bodies, over 6000 between Canada and the US so far, this truth can no longer be ignored. A road map of 94 recommendations has been set out by the TRC, but true action starts with each of us.
It is time to push for decolonization, the undoing and unlearning of colonial violence. Colonization is not just a thing of the past. It continues to happen today. But for every act of harm to Indigenous peoples, there have also been acts of resiliency and resistance. Building a better future for all people now living on this land means taring down colonial systems, returning land to its original people, honoring the treaties and so much more. That might sound like a big task to take on, but there are many groups already doing this work. We are stronger together. Seek out like-minded folks, and active groups doing the work of decolonization and reconciliation. Follow social media accounts that share information, and draw attention to things going on across the land that regular media doesn’t always show us. If you can, donate to groups doing front-line work. They often need food, supplies, and sometimes legal fund support. A good starting place for reconciliation is through education, but education without action is not enough.
On September 30 wear an orange shirt and attend a local event if you can. Remember, if you are non-Indigenous and have this day off work or school, it’s not just a new holiday, but rather a day of reflection, unlearning, and action. Look for local gatherings in your community.
In Winnipeg, there are the following events
- Orange Shirt Day Pow Wow in St. John’s Park
- Healing Walk from the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. This walk will end at the Pow Wow in St. John’s Park